John Calvin on Civil Government and Law.

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Institutes of the Christian Religion
Book 4
CHAPTER 20.

OF CIVIL GOVERNMENT.

14. In states, the thing next in importance to the magistrates is laws, the strongest sinews of government, or, as Cicero calls them after Plato, the soul, without which, the office of the magistrate cannot exist; just as, on the other hand, laws have no vigour without the magistrate. Hence nothing could be said more truly than that the law is a dumb magistrate, the magistrate a living law. As I have undertaken to describe the laws by which Christian polity is to be governed, there is no reason to expect from me a long discussion on the best kind of laws. The subject is of vast extent, and belongs not to this place. I will only briefly observe, in passing, what the laws are which may be piously used with reference to God, and duly administered among men. This I would rather have passed in silence, were I not aware that many dangerous errors are here committed. For there are some who deny that any commonwealth is rightly framed which neglects the law of Moses, and is ruled by the common law of nations. How perilous and seditious these views are, let others see: for me it is enough to demonstrate that they are stupid and false. We must attend to the well known division which distributes the whole law of God, as promulgated by Moses, into the moral, the ceremonial, and the judicial law, and we must attend to each of these parts, in order to understand how far they do, or do not, pertain to us. Meanwhile, let no one be moved by the thought that the judicial and ceremonial laws relate to morals. For the ancients who adopted this division, though they were not unaware that the two latter classes had to do with morals, did not give them the name of moral, because they might be changed and abrogated without affecting morals. They give this name specially to the first class, without which, true holiness of life and an immutable rule of conduct cannot exist.

15. The moral law, then (to begin with it), being contained under two heads, the one of which simply enjoins us to worship God with pure faith and piety, the other to embrace men with sincere affection, is the true and eternal rule of righteousness prescribed to the men of all nations and of all times, who would frame their life agreeably to the will of God. For his eternal and immutable will is, that we are all to worship him and mutually love one another. The ceremonial law of the Jews was a tutelage by which the Lord was pleased to exercise, as it were, the childhood of that people, until the fulness of the time should come when he was fully to manifest his wisdom to the world, and exhibit the reality of those things which were then adumbrated by figures (Gal. 3:24; 4:4). The judicial law, given them as a kind of polity, delivered certain forms of equity and justice, by which they might live together innocently and quietly. And as that exercise in ceremonies properly pertained to the doctrine of piety, inasmuch as it kept the Jewish Church in the worship and religion of God, yet was still distinguishable from piety itself, so the judicial form, though it looked only to the best method of preserving that charity which is enjoined by the eternal law of God, was still something distinct from the precept of love itself. Therefore, as ceremonies might be abrogated without at all interfering with piety, so, also, when these judicial arrangements are removed, the duties and precepts of charity can still remain perpetual. But if it is true that each nation has been left at liberty to enact the laws which it judges to be beneficial, still these are always to be tested by the rule of charity, so that while they vary in form, they must proceed on the same principle. Those barbarous and savage laws, for instance, which conferred honour on thieves, allowed the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, and other things even fouler and more absurd, I do not think entitled to be considered as laws, since they are not only altogether abhorrent to justice, but to humanity and civilised life.

16. What I have said will become plain if we attend, as we ought, to two things connected with all laws—viz. the enactment of the law, and the equity on which the enactment is founded and rests. Equity, as it is natural, cannot be the same in all, and therefore ought to be proposed by all laws, according to the nature of the thing enacted. As constitutions have some circumstances on which they partly depend, there is nothing to prevent their diversity, provided they all alike aim at equity as their end. Now, as it is evident that the law of God which we call moral, is nothing else than the testimony of natural law, and of that conscience which God has engraven on the minds of men, the whole of this equity of which we now speak is prescribed in it. Hence it alone ought to be the aim, the rule, and the end of all laws. Wherever laws are formed after this rule, directed to this aim, and restricted to this end, there is no reason why they should be disapproved by us, however much they may differ from the Jewish law, or from each other (August. de Civit. Dei, Lib. 19 c. 17). . . .

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Samuel Rutherford and Natural Law Question for Dr. Guy Richard

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Dr. Guy Richard,
If you wouldn’t mind answering a quick question for me I would appreciate it. It might not be simple or be easy to answer shortly nor quickly.

I moderate the Puritanboard.com. One of the Administrators on the Puritanboard Chris Coldwell and I were discussing Samuel Rutherford and Natural Law. We were looking at some of his thoughts on Natural Law in Lex Rex when and I found a quote from his Disputation Against Pretended Liberty that I considered to be his more definitive thought on the subject.

As I worked my way through examining Lex Rex he doesn’t ever seem to specifically define Natural Law but he does reference it and prove it is a Law in man by reason for preservation as I sum it up. In his book Disputations he writes what I would consider a more precise definition.

CHAP. I.
Of Conscience and its nature.
“Of this intellectual Treasure-house, we are to know these. 1. That in the inner Cabinet, the natural habit of Moral principles lodgeth, the Register of the common notions left in us by nature, the Ancient Records and Chronicles which were in Adam’s time, the Law of Nature of two volumes, one of the first Table, that there is a God, that he createth and governeth all things, that there is but one God, infinitely good, more just rewarding the Evil and the good; and of the second Table, as to love our Parents, obey Superiors, to hurt no man, the acts of humanity; All these are written in the soul, in deep letters, yet the Ink is dim and old, and therefore this light is like the Moon swimming through watery clouds, often under a shadow, and yet still in the firmament. Caligula, and others, under a cloud, denied there was any God, yet when the cloud was over, the light broke out of prison, and granted, a God there must be; strong winds do blow out a Torch in the night, and will blow in the same light again; and that there be other seeds, though come from a far land, and not growing out of the ground, as the former, is clear, for Christ scattereth some Gospel-truths in this Chalmer; as John 7.28. Then cried Jesus in the Temple; as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and whence I am. John 15.24. But now they have both seen, and hated both me and my Father.”

Now I don’t think his work in Lex Rex is in any way in conflict with his later work but it does seem he puts a more precise definition of what Natural Law is in Disputation. He also seems to indicate that Natural Law emanates from the moral law that was originally written on man’s heart and it consists of two tables. That would seem to indicate to me that he directly would logically link the Decalogue and this Law of Nature together.

We are discussing this in relation to Coffey’s book (which I have never read and don’t have) that Chris is quoting for me and how Rutherford might have seen a difference of application concerning the 1st Table from Natural Law for heathen kings vs. Christian kings (or whatever various form of Government he might be addressing).

I guess my question would be threefold. Is Rutherford’s definition more precise in Disputations than Lex Rex because he is addressing a different group or persons? Or am I reading too much into the definition of Disputation? Does he consider Natural Law to be fully revealing of the Decalogue? I understand you are the expert.

Thanks for your consideration,

Dr. Richard’s Reply

Randy,

Sorry for the delay in responding to your email. But thank you for contacting me. I always enjoy talking about Rutherford. I feel like he is my mentor and close personal friend in many ways, as much time as we have spent together!

Regarding your questions, let me first say that the passage you found in Pretended Liberty is a very good representation of what Rutherford believed regarding natural law. He clearly believed that the whole of the ten commandments were written upon the hearts of all men “in deep letters.” But, apart from Christ and apart from God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, “the ink is dim and old, and therefore this light is like the Moon swimming through watery clouds, often under a shadow, and yet still in the firmament.” Natural law is real. There is no such thing as an atheist, no one who ought to be able to plead ”not guilty” to breaking any of the 10 commandments. It is ”still in the firmament.” But it is oftentimes ”under a shadow.”

How this applies in the case of a person living within England or Scotland (or any other “Christian” nation) will be different many times than in the case of a “heathen” who does not have the same “Christian influences” around him/her. The one who lives within a Christian nation will have certain Christian influences (i.e., God’s Word, Christians themselves, the church, civil laws derived from the Christian ethic, etc). These things would serve to reinforce natural law in the case of the one living in a “Christian nation.” But the heathen would not have these influences. All he/she would have is natural law, which is the ten commandments written upon his/her heart “in deep letters” but with “ink [that] is dim and old” and “often under a shadow.”

I’m not sure whether or not that answers your questions. Feel free to email back if you’d like further clarification on anything.

Thanks again for contacting me. Blessings on your continued study!

Guy

Dr. Guy M. Richard

First Presbyterian Church

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Dr. Guy Richard’s publications.  http://www.fpcgulfport.org/dr-guy-richard-s-publications

 

Just a quick question Dr. Richard,

Would it be okay to quote your response to my questions?  I will not use private messages without permission of the author in any way unless I am given permission.  It is matter of ethics and loyalty.  If not that is just fine.  I totally understand.

Randy,

I’d prefer that you not publish them in print form. But if you would like to use them on line or something like that, that would be fine with me.

G

“Two kingdoms” propositions with some responses or counterpoints

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Over on the Puritanboard, we are having a discussion on the recent developments of what Two Kingdom Theology is and how it is understood.  Mark Van Der Molen, an Indiana lawyer and former Elder in the URCNA (United Reformed Church of North America) who has studied the topic for some years, worked out a series of “two kingdoms” propositions drawn primarily from the teachings of Dr. David Van Drunen.  The development of the propositions arose in Van Der Molen’s discussion with Matthew Tuininga on his blog  Christian in America in May of 2012.  The 27 Propositions were developed, refined, and agreed upon by both Van Der Molen and Tuininga as a starting point to discuss the topic.

At the Puritanboard, in response to some questions, Mark provided an updated series of responses/ counter points to the propositions.  Just as my own blog is still a work in progress, and some two kingdom proponents may have some disagreements in their exact formulation, this list of propositions, responses, and counterpoints could be beneficial in bringing some clarity to this ongoing discussion.

Two kingdoms” propositions with some responses or counterpoints:

1. The moral law is binding on all men everywhere.

No disagreement on this.

2. Natural law is the basic moral standard in the common kingdom.

The Reformed confessions recognize that natural law exists and is a standard, but it is insufficient to order the common kingdom aright independently of special revelation.

3. Natural law is the standard for the civil government’s use of the sword.

The Reformed confessions testify that natural law is a standard, but is insufficient to order the government’s use of the sword aright.

4. The Decalogue was given for the covenant community only.

The Reformed confessions testify the Decalogue was given “to” the covenant community, but is given “for” all men.

5. The provisional and ceremonial aspects of the Decalogue were binding on the O.T. covenant community only.

Generally agreeable, except that the Reformed confessions also testify that the “truth and substance” of the law and prophets and ceremonial law remain today.

6. The moral law as expressed in the Decalogue is binding on all men everywhere.

Generally agreeable, except to the extent this formulation is sometimes used to sever the moral law from its written expression in the Decalogue

7. Scripture is not given as a common moral standard that provides ethical imperatives to all people regardless of their religious standing.

The Reformed confessions testify that the moral imperatives of Scripture are binding on all men everywhere.

8. As an expression of the natural law, the Noahic Covenant’s principle of lex talionis retributive justice governs use of the sword in the common kingdom.

Reformed theology has typically not limited the use of the sword to simply the lex talinios principle, but recognizes that the use of the sword includes justice tempered by mercy.

9. The lex talionis principle is not exact but is approximate, flexible, imprecise, and tempered by forbearance according the wise judgment of those in authority.

This proposition suggests agreement with the counterpoint to #8, but the term “forbearance” does not appear to equate with term “mercy” by two kingdoms proponents. 

10. Principles of mercy and forgiveness do not govern the common kingdom.

Principles of mercy and forgiveness do operate in the common kingdom, if one understands the common kingdom to include families, personal relationships, etc.

11. Principles of mercy and forgiveness govern Christ’s spiritual kingdom.

The Reformed would agree, but add that principles of justice also operate in the spiritual kingdom. 

12. The civil magistrate is to enforce the natural law duties of men toward one another as expressed in the Second Table of the Decalogue, but is not to enforce any natural law duties of men toward God as expressed in the First Table of the Decalogue.

The Reformed confessions testify that the written expression of the Second Table itself is enforced in some respects (not just the natural law represented by the Second table) and further, testify that there are aspects of the First Table that are within the proper sphere of the magistrate.

13. As the Noahic Covenant makes no distinction between believers and unbelievers, the state should not require nor promote any particular religious commitment to norm participation in the social order in the common kingdom.

Reformed theologians have also recognized that the Noahic Covenant did make distinctions between believers and unbelievers (commands and gracious promises to Noah and his family vs. mankind in general) and have denied that the Noahic is strictly a “common grace” covenant with no particular religious commitment to be promoted in the common kingdom.

14. The church is the present institutional manifestation of Christ’s redemptive kingdom.

The Reformed confessions testify that the church is the “chief” manifestation, but not the sole present manifestation of the kingdom.

15. Natural law alone is the sufficient standard for ordering the common kingdom aright.

The Canons of Dort and Belgic Confessions testify that natural law is insufficient to order things civil and natural “aright” due to the noetic effects of sin.

16. The Law delivered at Sinai under the Mosaic Covenant was a republication of the Covenant of Works in effect only during the time of the Israel theocracy.

The Mosaic covenant is in substance and essence an administration of the one covenant of grace. The idea of the Mosaic as a republished covenant of works with a “works principle” actually operating in some mixed or subservient fashion, was an historically minority opinion not codified in of our confessions.

17. The principles embedded in the judicial laws of the Mosaic Covenant are not normative for public policy today, except to the extent they reflect the general equity of natural law.

Generally agreed, except that it would be better to substitute or at least include the word “moral law” for “natural law” for clarity’s sake.

18. The state has no duty or goal to aid the advancement of the spiritual kingdom.

The Reformed confessions testify to the contrary, in that the magistrate is ordained to restrain evil, to promote good, to protect the church, and aid the advance of the gospel. 

19. It is illegitimate to change the institutions of the common kingdom (e.g., the state) to make them conform to distinctively Christian principles (e.g., turn the other cheek).

The Reformed confessions and scripture testify that all men, in whatever station, are to submit to the Lordship of Christ, tearing down strongholds and taking every thought captive to the Lordship of Christ.

20. It is inappropriate to seek the gospel’s transformation of culture into a Christian culture.

See response to #19.

21. Our resurrected body is the only element of creation that will be carried over into the eschatological kingdom.

Reformed theologians have also said that our sanctified/perfected works and the renewed heavens and earth will be part of the eschatological kingdom.

22. The family is part of the common kingdom.

The institution of the family is formed by God and is to be directed to the glory of God. It is agreed that it is an institution shared by unbelievers, but unbelievers misdirect or suppress the direction the institution should take.

23. The Christian is a dual citizen, as a citizen of both the spiritual kingdom and a citizen of the common kingdom.

It is agreeable that we share and interact with unbelievers but the term “kingdom” could confuse if such activities are thought in spatial terms as some “realm” governed by some different king or different ethic. 

24. The unbeliever is a citizen only of the common kingdom.

This is generally agreeable, but with same caveat as #23 on the definition of “kingdom”. 

25. The Christian lives under a dual ethic, namely, the natural law-justice ethic governing life in the common kingdom and the grace-mercy ethic governing life in the spiritual kingdom.

The Reformed confessions and scripture testify we we live under a unified Biblical Christian ethic, not a dual- antithetical ethic that depends on which “kingdom” we are operating in. Thus, for example, the Christian family is not guided solely by an ethic of lex talionis justice, but also an ethic of mercy and forgiveness. 

26. The common kingdom pertains to temporal, earthly, provisional matters, not matters of ultimate and spiritual importance. It includes matters of politics, law, and cultural life more generally.

The Reformed confessions do not exclude the kingdom of God as being manifest in these earthly matters of law, politics, and cultural life more generally.

27. The spiritual kingdom pertains to things that are of ultimate and spiritual importance. Insofar as this spiritual kingdom has earthly existence, it is found in the church and not in the state or other temporal institutions.

See comment on #26.

You can read the back and forth discussion from the comments section at the link below to see how they worked the propositions out.  http://matthewtuininga.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/addressing-confusion-about-the-two-kingdoms-doctrine-what-about-the-law/#comments

The comments, post, and link has been put away by Matthew Tuininga.  I saved them in a file at one time.

Kindgoms Apart “Engaging the Two Kingdoms Perspective” Pre-release….

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Kingdoms Apart
Engaging the Two Kingdoms Perspective

Ryan C McIlhenny

There is a portion of this book that has been made available and downloadable. I heartily recommend you download it and read it. Dr. Venema’s part is most excellent. It correctly and clearly brings David VanDrunnen’s views and interpretation of Calvin’s Two Kingdom / Natural Law Theology into question.

After you open the link just click on ‘Sample Chapters: PDF’
Then click ‘save page as’ in your browser so you can retain a copy. I will buy the book as soon as it is made available.  It is suppose to be available Oct. 2012.

There are three broad topics that are considered in Venema’s critique of Van Drunnen’s interpretation of Calvin concerning Two Kingdom’s / Natural Law.

First, Does Calvin view them (the two kingdoms) primarily in terms of two separate realms? Does he make clear identification of the spiritual kingdom with the institutional church and the natural kingdom with the remainder of human life and culture?
Second, Is there a strict correlation between the natural kingdom, which is governed by Christ as Mediator of Creation through natural law, and the spiritual kingdom, which is governed by Christ as Mediator of redemption through moral law as it is set forth in scripture?
Third, What is the relation that Calvin emphasizes between God’s purpose and work as Creator and as Redeemer. How does Calvin construe the relation between God’s purposes in creation and redemption?

http://www.prpbooks.com/Kingdoms-Apart-Engaging-the-Two-Kingdoms-Perspective-2210.html&session=7c179173247ef610b5aeab10bdcb61e1#.UGHyN9plTY0.facebook

http://www.prpbooks.com/samples/9781596384354.pdf

Please sit up and take notice of this issue.  I couldn’t agree more with the assessment of Gideon Strauss, Senior Fellow, Center for Public Justice, Washington, DC, “This is not only an academic debate. The outcome of the debate will have broad implications for Christian schools, colleges, seminaries, and churches and for Christians in the academy, politics, business, the arts, and other realms of cultural activity.”

I venture to even go a bit farther and state that this effects our understanding of Christ (Christology) and how we live our life inwardly as well as outwardly.

The download to this might be rather short lived so get it while you can.

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